By Olanrewaju Oyedeji
One of the senior government operatives in the Goodluck Jonathan era, the immediate past Interior Minister, Abba Moro, has been docked by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
He is being prosecuted onan 11-count charge bordering on obtaining by false pretence, procurement fraud and money laundering before the Federal High Court, Abuja.
Others being charged alongside Mr Moro for their roles in the Immigration recruitment exercise that killed no fewer than 20 job seekers across the country are the Permanent Secretary of the ministry at the time, Anastasia Daniel-Nwobia; a deputy director in the ministry, F. O Alayebami; one Mahmood Ahmadu (at large), and the contracting firm given the recruitment job, Drexel Tech Nigeria Ltd.
On their being docked, Mr Moro and his co-accused all entered not-guilty pleas to the 11-count charges of fraud.
Having taken their plea, the accused persons attempted to move their bail application, but counsel to the EFCC told the court that it was not ripe for hearing, because he was only served on Friday and would need time to reply.
The court however obliged the plea of Chris Uche who is the counsel to Ms Anastasia Nwobia, to extend the administrative bail granted to her pending the hearing and determination of their bail application on the grounds that she is a nursing mother.
Justice Anuli Chikere, however, remanded the former minister and the Director of Procurement in the ministry, Mr Felix Alabayemi in prison custody until March 2, 2016 when the bail application would be heard.
The EFCC accused the defendants of defrauding 676,675 Nigerian applicants of over 670 Million Naira.
In 2014, the Nigeria Immigration Service, under Mr Abba Moro’s watch, organised a recruitment exercise nationwide on the same day and due to the massive crowd, officials of the Immigration were unable to effectively control the crowd.
This error led to the death of the young graduates and the former President, Goodluck Jonathan, ordered an investigation into the situation, a report which is yet to be made public.